Photo by Front404

Landscape Within, 2016-2017

The gut is a remarkable open-ended tube and an independently functioning organ that runs through us. It not only links us to the environment and invites the landscape within us, it is also an organ that connects us to an ancestry of animal evolution. It is an intersection of our past human activities evident in the environmental contaminants that find themselves within us through food and exposure and it navigates our futures including it’s influences on health, IQ and personality.

In the late Anthropocene future, where there is no escape from the contaminated landscape, the familiar saying of ‘we are what we eat’ is revised to also include ‘we are where we live’. When we realise that the landscape is within us and our influence on it has the potential to change us in unexpected ways, both in body and mind, we are confronted with the challenge to adapt to the world of our making.

Beyond surviving in the contaminated landscape, how might we thrive?
What new abilities will this future human possess once enhanced for the late Anthropocene landscape?
What will we create to fill the void left behind by the many other animals that couldn’t adapt to the human age? What new species will evolve in their place?
What cultural customs will emerge and how will food be transformed in this new world?

The work is supported by a Wellcome Arts Award and made in collaboration with Dr Louise Horsfall, and the Horsfall Lab at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Susan Hodgson, researcher and lecturer in Environmental Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment at Imperial College London.






Recent health warnings have told us that rice contains arsenic and fish contains mercury. In 2016 dead whales beached in the US and Scotland exhibited the highest levels of contamination ever observed in these marine mammals. To prepare for a future without escape from the contaminated landscape, an external digestive system machine allows us to adapt to the effects of the Anthropocene Era, resulting from the human age. Functionally, the digestive machine filters out the impact of heavy metals on our health where lead (Pb) can lower IQ capability, mercury (Hg) can have an irreversible effect on foetal development, and arsenic (As) can affect memory and personality change.

In the near future, the digestive machine creates an external additional stage to our gut system. With future upgrades, the machine is destined to move inside the body as an extra stomach organ. These gut enhancements ensure personality stability to counter aggressive behaviour, stimulate IQ development, trigger memories to combat dementia and promote social interaction for communities that have suffered isolation away from unsafe environments. The machine does this by using engineered bacteria designed to separate food from contaminating heavy-metals, resulting in safe consumption and nano-sized metals that are a valuable resource.

The machine’s construction of a tube within a tube, mirrors our own body plan. It enhances the gut, which as an organ is an early evolutionary development to extract energy from our environment and links us to our many animal ancestors; highlighting that our digestive system is a crossroads between us and the landscape, the past and the future.

Memory of the rice terrace in the early Anthropocene

Memory of the wheat field in the early Anthropocene


Some organisms both plants and animals, are extremely good at absorbing heavy-metals in their diets, such as hyper accumulating plants (See Instruments of the Afterlife). The Exposure Forecasting Records below are used by experts in the future to predict how your body and mind may change according to heavy-metals that you are exposed to when the landscape enters within your body.

Biomagnification in the marine environment causes mercury (Hg) to gather in fish such as swordfish, mackerel and shark that we also eat.

Rice plants are hyperaccumulators of arsenic (As).

Wheat plants are hyperaccmulators of lead (Pb).


Digestive machine

Photo by Front404


Rice sausages following arsenic extraction process

Edible engineered e-coli containing green fluorescent protein (GFP) within the sausage fluoresce after they finish the arsenic extraction process. Food such as the fluorescing rice sausage provides new dining possibilities and experiential sensations.





Landscape Within


Michael Burton & Michiko Nitta


In collaboration with

Dr. Louise Horsfall

Dr. Michael Capeness

Dr. Virginia Echavarri-Bravo

Dr. Matthew Edmundson

The Horsfall Lab

Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology,

University of Edinburgh


Dr. Susan Hodgson

Environmental Epidemiology and Exposure Assessment

School of Public Health

Imperial College London



Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award









Join us on the journey into the Landscape Within 2016 - 2017

Embarking at the V&A

On 23rd, 24th & 25th September 2016

as part of Digital Design Weekend





Exhibited at MU Gallery, Eindhoven

December 2016 - February 2017









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